INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed St Lucian Photographer Kirk Elliott recently saw his St Lucia Photo Tour inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame. Elliott created the St Lucia Photo Tour in 2014 and this unique and novel visitor experience went on to win TripAdvisor Certificates of Excellence for five consecutive years and therefore earned the prestigious award. In communicating the news to Elliott TripAdvisor wrote: “Because you’ve earned a Certificate of Excellence every year for the past five years, we’re pleased to announce that St Lucia Photo Tours has qualified for the Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame.”
When asked how he felt about this recent accomplishment an elated Elliott replied: “I am both honoured and humbled by this award and see it as recognition in its purest form since the award is based solely on satisfied clients voting the St Lucia Photo Tour best in class.”
The St Lucia Photo Tour is currently ranked the #1 Outdoor Activity in Castries and one of the Top 5 Photo Tours in the entire Caribbean by TripAdvisor. When asked what does he attribute the success of the Photo Tour to Elliott explained: “I am passionate about photography, and challenges and obstacles I’ve faced along the way have inspired me to develop a signature Kirk Elliott product and a brand that epitomizes caring and sharing – from picking up the phone and calling every prospective client who contacts me, to offering a 100% No Questions Asked Money Back Guarantee – that’s just my style!”
So, what exactly is the St Lucia Photo Tour and what differentiates it in the marketplace? The St Lucia Photo Tour is a niche tourism excursion that introduces travellers to authentic Saint Lucian culture, history and cuisine through the medium of photography. Judging from the comments clients are leaving on TripAdvisor the tour is doing Saint Lucia proud, with multiple visitors indicating choosing Saint Lucia for their vacation rather than another destination just so they could experience the Photo Tour.
Changing Visitor Expectations
With the abundance of information online today travel has evolved from getaways for sun, sea and sand to a more experiential affair. Many visitors expressly wish to enjoy excursions in smaller groups, or even to go private, and to have authentic local experiences. Travellers are starting to pay attention to their carbon footprint when travelling. Knowing the money they spend directly benefits the local economy gives them a sense of contributing to the well-being of the people and places they visit, and they see this as a positive counter to their carbon impact.
Magnifying This Win for Saint Lucia’s Greater Gain
Elliott believes that his TripAdvisor award can be leveraged for a greater win for Saint Lucia. With more visitors actively seeking out authentic local experiences he sees the Photo Tour’s induction into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame having the power to motivate other local tourism entrepreneurs to emulate and even better the business practices that have brought him success. “We are not in competition with each other, but rather only in competition with other destinations vying for the visitors we seek to attract to our shores,” Elliott opines. Along these lines Elliott salutes government’s Castries redevelopment initiative that seeks to bring greater economic benefit to the city’s tourism vendors. However, he believes that the enabling environment must not end there. Towards this end Elliott would like to see government give special attention to the local entrepreneur driven excursion sector with a portion of the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority’s annual marketing budget devoted to a holistic promotion of the sector. Done right, this can only be money well spent as judging from TripAdvisor reviews this is the area of a Saint Lucia experience that resonates most with visitors.
Kirk Elliott is a Photographer/Sustainable Tourism Entrepreneur & Activist with over 25 years of first-hand tourism experience. He serves as a Director at the Saint Lucia Hospitality & Tourism Association, as a Councillor at the Saint Lucia National Trust and is actively involved in a unique Community Based Sustainable Tourism project that seeks to create an International Benchmark of Sustainable Community Based Tourism within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.